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February 24th, 2009 | Yahoo Store Tips

The ‘Attention to Details’ Curse

Posted on February 24th, 2009 by Matt Sampson - Colorado Web Solutions

We often hear in our lives that it is the attention to details that make or break our experiences, and for the most part, I do believe that is true, but, I would like to talk today about the dark side of the attention to details… unnecessary delays.

We have built a lot of websites in our 12 year history and there are a few things that have remained consistent over the years that we see repeatedly manifested in different clients and companies. There is a fine line between being attentive to the details and delaying (and potentially shipwrecking) your website.

I know there are numerous exceptions to every rule, so I write this with generalities rather than hard fact, but from the work we have done, and the hundreds and hundreds of clients we have worked with, these theories have held true.

Do Your Research

I’ll start this article with a suggestion of where to put your attention to detail at the beginning of the project, the Platform. We work almost exclusively on the Yahoo! Store Platform, but this applies to anyone starting a website no matter the technology or platform. Does the Platform do what you need it to do? Is the Platform expandable? What are the limitations of the Platform? What do I need this Platform to be able to do that I cannot or will not compromise?

Once you’ve asked yourself those questions you are able to find the answers. Until you know what you need though, it is very difficult to analyze a platform for your needs. Once you have settled on a particular platform your work can continue on the project development.

What if you don’t know what you need? If this is the case, you probably fit into one of two categories. You either really don’t need much more than the standard functionality included with most ecommerce platforms or you have not spent enough time thinking about the details of your business model. If you fit into the first category you can move on, but if you are part of the second category, you’ve just hit the first major stumbling block in online business.

Details are all about Balance.

Too many details, too much mico-managing and you sink your ship. Too few details, little or no actual business plan and you probably won’t get out of the harbor. Either way, you’re not going anywhere. The keys to starting and maintaining a successful online business are Knowledge, Flexibility, and Drive. If you can master those three keys, you’ve got a much better chance at succeeding online.

Key Number One: Knowledge

Knowledge warps up all the technical and practical aspects of your business. What Platform are you using? How does it work? Who are my suppliers? Who are my customers? How am I going to advertise? The list goes on and on, but the more knowledge you have about your business and the way you intend to run it, will lead to a faster and more efficient launch of your site. Knowledge can also be a major albatroz though if not combined with Flexibility.

We have seen numerous clients that will take months and months dissecting their site designs, holding off launches until every last article has been posted to the site, waiting to launch until the “extra” technology is fully functioning even though it can be hidden from view during development, not launching because the ad campaigns are not ready, etc, etc. While these particular types of clients assume that  being attentive to every last little detail means that they have a greater chance of success, we’ve seen the exact opposite. Almost 80% of the sites that have launched with major delays caused by the shift from “Attention to Details” to “Obsession with Details”,  have closed within the first year. In my opinion, that is because they lacked the second key factor to success, Flexibility.

Key Number Two: Flexibility

No matter what any Platform provider or Design Firm tells you, your website is never going to be as good as you want it to be. If you can understand that simple fact, you are way ahead of most people. If your website ever is as good as you want it to be, at least for an extended period of time, please skip ahead to the next section about Drive.

Now, let’s take a look at that statement above. Why would I ever tell you that your website is NEVER going to be as good as you want it to be? Seems rather negative right? It’s not. In fact it’s the exact opposite, it’s a very positive and motivating statement. Let me explain.

When we combine Knowledge with Flexibility the end result is growth. Take a particular website feature as an example. Let’s say you are interested in a new technology that you saw online that allows you to show streaming video of customer service reps demonstrating the use of a particular product. The sample you saw was for backpacks and you would like to add that same functionality to your store that will be selling shoes.

After researching for a while, you find out that the technology was made for one particular platform and was not designed for the one you are building on. There could be a work around though. So you hire a design firm to build your new website and tell them that you are going to be adding this streaming technology from a third party resource, you’ll just need them to plug it in.

The project is rolling along great and it is now time to add the streaming video technology. There’s a glitch. You knew this might happen, but you were hoping it wouldn’t. Your mind is made up though, you have to have this technology. So you ask for a work around. You are not willing to compromise this technology because you feel that it will be the key factor in making your store more desirable than a competitor. You might even be right! Weeks go by and a work-around is not found. You ask for more effort. Your design firm suggests you consider launching without the technology and then adding it when it is ready. You’re not convinced… without it, you’re nothing. Months go by and finally one of two things happens. The technology works or you finally cave and decide to launch the site.

In the mean time, another competitor that you didn’t even know about has launched their site (without streaming video) and is starting to take some of your market share because they have been advertising and promoting themselves in the search engines for months while you were waiting to launch your site. To top it off, the streaming technology is now available as a monthly subscription from the company that developed it and works on all platforms. You and your competitor sign up and install it on your sites on the same day.

I know this is a rather extreme example (though not far fetched!), but I’m trying to illustrate a point. A little flexibility can go a long way. In the example above, if the client had launched the site while the developement firm was working on the streaming issues, they would have had a few months to start getting indexed in the search engines and time to start working on online ad campaigns, etc. Instead though, they had a “coming soon” page that the search engines ignored completely.  By adding just a little flexibility to the plan, they could have started growing their business and taking another few steps closer to success.

I want to clarify that Flexibility does not mean lowering your expectations though. The growth comes from finding a balance between expectations (knowledge) and best practices (flexibility). There is one more critical factor though in this mix. It is the element that makes the statement above (Your website will never be as good as you want it to be) a motivating and positive statement. That element is Drive.

Key Number Three: Drive

Everyone wants to succeed. Not everyone wants to work at it. Some clients are happy to build a store, launch it and let it go. Others will do everything in their power to market it, improve it and promote it. Again, a balance is needed here. Too much drive and not enough knowledge leads to poor decision making that could effect the bottom line. Too much drive without flexibility leads to delays and unnecessary complications. Not having enough drive leads to exactly what what you have now (and usually less as time goes on).

In my opinion, the best mix is to have enough drive to know you want your website to do more, enough flexibility to understand that you don’t have to have everything and enough knowledge to know why you are making your decisions. Always strive for more, but utilize what you have to your absolute best ability. Don’t get hung up on small decisions. Don’t let technology dictate your success. When you can achieve a good balance you have the building blocks to run a successful online business.

In Conclusion

There are a thousand ways to talk about the key’s to success and this is one of them. I have learned first hand over the last 20 years the in-depth meanings behind these theories and can tell you that I for one, try to follow them as much as I possibly can. Knowledge, Flexibility and Drive. Write it on your White Board at the office. It’s good to keep in the back of your mind.

Take Care Everyone.

Matt Sampson
Colorado Web Solutions

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